Supporting a community online: the Platform

What are the minimum requirements for software to support a community? In some respects this will depend on the scale, and the engagement of the members, ther longevity desired, the traffic etc.

I’ve been thinking about this hard with the launch of Ako Aoteraroa. I think my irreducible minimum functionality would include these functions:

Admin Functions:

  1. Roles. The ability to give members extra rights to become administrators in some sense.
    At least three roles: Owner, Admin, Members.
  2. Easy communication: with group members, as groups of individuals.
    There needs to be a way for a person with admin rights to click a link to send a copy of a post to everyone’s email – routine admin posts, news of special events etc.  Used sparingly.
  3. Power: The ability to ban members, delete and hide posts. The ability to moderate: and maybe to moderate some individuals.
  4. News/calendar functionality

Member Functions

  1. Joining: a self signup process, with a confirmation process of e-mails (etc)
  2. A forum. There has been a lot of debate over flat or nested (threaded) discussions. I think the answer is both are needed with a button to switch between views.
    An added bonus is the ability to split a thread to take a post, and all the replies linked to that post, and split it off into a separate thread.
  3. Notifications of posts: with individual control.
  4. Posting: Edit your own posts for a while. Pictures in posts.
  5. A members list and profiles and (maybe) some individual public history.  Identity management: some sort of way for individuals to manage who they are in relation to the community: maybe a place to linked to the blog or homepage, or a place they can record a brief profile, and maybe a record there of posts made.
    In essence they should be able to find each other and be found.
  6. File Sharing: it’s vital that there be some ability to upload an annotated copy of a file.
    Ideally there would be search functionality if files get too many.
  7. A great text editor with the ability to handle images, media, links and formatting easily.

Nice: chat/messaging, voting thingy, wiki.

Site functions

A public home page and optinmal other public pages.

Some options:

  1. Groupserver (Dan Randow, Christchurch, New Zelaland)
  2. Webcrossing (This is the software behind CP2)
  3. Moodle.  (Not a community support application, but has lots of functionality)
  4. Google groups.  Google groups has a lot of this functionality.

Leigh’s suggestion is to give up on any proprietary or even installable Open source options and see if Google can be persuaded to being in the remaining desired functionality.

This is a simple first pass list.  There are a lot of other subtlies.  And a lot of other software options (Just do a search – pretty well once a week I hear of a new application – Dolphin was the latest).  And a lot of other lists as well. May post sometime.

Random Links: Nancy’s Forum Link: About Forums (On wikispaces, you may have to join)

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